If a student or teacher is diagnosed with a coronavirus infection in a New Jersey classroom, all of the people they come close to at school can be required to stay home for 14 days, according to new state guidelines. .
But if two people in different classes got sick, the entire school could be shut down.
The state Department of Health released 19 new health rule pages for schools on Thursday as counties across New Jersey prepare to reopen schools for live classes for the first time since college. coronavirus epidemic begins.
Many public school officials have been demanding clearer health guidelines from the state since June, when the state̵7;s original 104-page school reopening plan indicated decisions about when and closing schools when people are sick will largely depend on school leaders and local health care. officials.
The new guidance includes more specific rules about how schools should handle COVID-19 positive cases, when they should ask students in segregated classes, and when entire schools should close. door and move on to distance learning. The rules are considered general guidelines, the state said, and school districts may choose to develop stricter rules.
The new guidelines also detail a color-coded coronavirus tracking system first announced by state officials on Wednesday, dividing the state into six regions. If virus and health data rates in any area are too high, the state may require all schools in that area to close their buildings, state officials said.
“Understand that COVID-19 may have different effects on certain areas of the state, the department will provide data for six state regions to inform local decisions,” the Health Commissioner of the state Judith Persichilli said.
According to the new principles:
– If a teacher or student in the school has a confirmed COVID-19 case, the school can continue to open. But anyone who comes close to the school will be asked to stay on home isolation. “Students and staff that are close to positive exposure will be removed from school for 14 days,” the rules say.
– If two people in the same class get sick, the school can open. But everyone in the class may be asked to quarantine. “Recommendations for whether an entire classroom should be considered exposure will be based on the public health survey,” the guidelines said.
If two or more people in different classes have confirmed COVID-19 cases within 14 days at the same school, it gets more complicated. Entire schools could be closed if “it is impossible to easily determine a clear link between suspected or confirmed cases or cases of COVID-19,” the recommendation said.
The new guidelines are issued as nearly 600 New Jersey public school districts are submitting their reopening plans to the state department of education for approval.
Governor Phil Murphy initially asked all schools to host at least some live classes. On Wednesday, however, the state guidelines were revised to allow school districts to start the school year with distance learning at home only if officials feel they cannot open the door to excuses. safety measures in place.
Most schools initially plan to open a hybrid plan, combining a few days of face-to-face study per week with a form of distance learning at home. Masks are required for students to wear and classrooms must have desks six feet apart or barriers between students.
All students in every district also have the right to choose from a complete distance learning plan, even when their school is offering live classes.
Last March, Murphy ordered all public and private schools to close and switch to distance learning at the start of the pandemic.
This year, New Jersey officials said they will take a regional approach to health data monitoring to help determine if schools should open.
Under the new guidelines, the state will be divided into a COVID-19 Regional Risk Matrix six regions:
– Northwest: Morris, Passaic, Sussex, Warren
– Northeast: Bergen, Essex, Hudson
Midwest: Hunterdon, Mercer, Somerset
– Middle East: Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Union
– Southwest: Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Salem
– Southeast: Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland
Each zone will be assigned a color (green, yellow, orange or red) weekly based on the virus risk in the area.
“The position of an area on the color-coded category is based on three criteria: the number of cases in the last week, the percentage positive in the past week, and the monitoring of the syndrome,” said the state health ministry. last week”.
If an area is labeled red, every district should switch to distance learning and close all schools. If it is orange, the schools in the region should also turn to distance learning if they cannot guarantee that they are following all precautions to prevent the virus from spreading, the instructions said. .
The health guidance also says schools should move choir and music classes outdoors, if possible; Only masks are allowed, without concealing faces in schools; and cleaning desks, counter tops, doorknobs, computer keyboards and other contact surfaces “at least daily”.
The guidelines include sample forms that school districts should ask parents to fill out each day to say they checked their child’s list of coronavirus symptoms before sending them to school. Additional sample letters can be sent home to students’ families if there is a COVID-19 case in their classroom or school.
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